CONCERT REVIEW: David Brighton channels David Bowie for spot-on tribute in Wilkes-Barre
When David Bowie died unexpectedly in January just two days after his 69th birthday, many of us thought we would never again hear his classic songs in a live setting.
Enter David Brighton, who portrays Bowie on stage in “Space Oddity: The Ultimate David Bowie Experience.” Many tribute artists claim to be the best, but judging from his performance at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday, Aug. 9, Brighton has the look, sound, and chops to back it up.
Taking the stage in a white dress shirt, black vest, and black trousers, Brighton sang a clutch of songs associated with Bowie’s “plastic soul” phase and his later emergence as the Thin White Duke (1974-76). Brighton opened with “Rebel Rebel” from 1974’s “Diamond Dogs,” then did great versions of “Young Americans” and “Golden Years” from the 1975 album “Young Americans.”
For some reason, which wasn’t really explained by his flippant comment about 1985 being the “worst year in music history,” Brighton jumped ahead to “Dancing in the Street,” Bowie’s Live Aid duet with Mick Jagger.
Brighton got back on track with a gorgeous version of 1970’s “The Man Who Sold the World,” the always funky “Fame” from 1975 (Bowie’s first No. 1 hit), and the lesser-known “Stay” from 1976’s “Station to Station.”
The singer left the stage halfway through the latter number, only to reappear as Ziggy Stardust, first introduced to the masses by 1972’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.”
This section of the tribute started with that record’s “Hang On to Yourself,” then moved on to a great rendition of the title track. Brighton then followed with another glam-rock masterpiece of the time period, T. Rex’s “Get It On” (also known as “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” in the U.S.).
Brighton led up to the intermission with knockout performances of “Changes,” “Space Oddity,” “The Jean Genie,” and “Suffragette City.”
Special recognition must go to Brighton’s crack backing band – guitarists Switch (who took on the role of Bowie’s real-life foil Mick Ronson) and Paul Nelson, bassist Trent Stroh, drummer Ryan Brown, and keyboardist/background vocalist Brooke Naughton – who pulled off the intricacies of the “Space Oddity” arrangement with flair and brought the right sounds at the right times all evening long.
The second half of the tribute had Brighton dressed in a canary yellow suit for a recreation of Bowie’s 1983 “Serious Moonlight” tour. This section started with “Let’s Dance,” Bowie’s second (and last) chart topper, and 1980’s “Ashes to Ashes.”
Then came knockout versions of “Cat People (Putting Out Fire),” “All the Young Dudes,” the glam-rock anthem Bowie wrote for Mott the Hoople, and “Where Have All the Good Times Gone,” a Kinks song Bowie recorded for his “Pin Ups” collection in 1973.
The 1971 album “Hunky Dory” was well-represented by a stunning version of “Life on Mars?” (and the earlier “Changes”), then it was on to an exuberant version of “Under Pressure,” with guitarist Nelson handling the Freddie Mercury part remarkably well.
The second set ended with “Heroes,” a 1977 song that has gone on to be included on multiple “greatest of all time” lists, and the first encore was Bowie’s 1983 smash “Modern Love.”
Just when you thought the show was over, the band came back out for a raucous version of “The Time Warp” from “The Rocky Horror Show,” which somehow seemed a fitting way to top off the evening.